Kanya King’s top 5 tips for succeeding as a woman in business

Kanya King is one amazing lady. The founder and CEO of the MOBO Awards and is an amazing example of persistence over adversity.  She was one of our Extraordinary Entrepreneurs at an event we held back in 2009 and is such an inspirational female entrepreneur.

Her father died when she was 13 and his final words to her were “be the best you can be”. She certainly took those words to heart.

She is one of nine children and grew up in a household with very little money to spare. She went to Goldsmiths college but didn’t graduate and got pregnant at a very young age. All this did not stop her.

She started working in television and discovered a gap in the market for for soul and hip hop music which she did not feel were represented as well as they could be in the music awards market.  So, what did she do? She remortgaged her house.  She put her life on the line to create an incredible business about which she was incredibly passionate.

She was able to pull together a team of people who worked tirelessly to make the awards ceremony happen.  Her secret to success is passion, persistence and commitment.  Through her energy and drive she was able to persuade Tony & Cherie Blair to open her first event for her and presented Lionel Ritchie with a life-time achievement award.   The event was a huge success.

The MOBO Awards was the first televised event of it’s kind and is the largest urban music brand in Europe.  It is now an interactive business that champions new talent.

She believes that there has never been a better time to be a woman in business (WE AGREE!) but we need to be more forthcoming.  Women often have trouble borrowing money, embracing it and sometimes even talking about it.  I agree with this wholeheartedly.  By holding back, we are stopping ourselves from achieving what we are capable of and it is time to step up and be brave.

Kanya’s Top 5  Tips…

1. Be careful about letting anyone else sign the cheques in your business – keep a tight control of the finances

2. Work on the business as well as in the business

3. Your brand is very important – it needs to stand for your values and your business

4. Surround yourself with the right team

5. Believe in yourself – have passion, clear goals, and do whatever it takes, however long it takes to achieve your vision.

Here is a video of an interview with Kanya at the British Library a few years ago and you can hear her amazing story for yourself.

Getting your business heard over the din

It’s a noisy world out there with so many businesses and consumers contributing to the babble every second of every day.  So how do you get your business’s voice heard over the din?  How do you make sure it’s your message or offer that’s listened to.  And how do you do this without breaking the bank?

Businesses now face a massive range of channels through which to promote themselves.  The sophistication of social, mobile and other digital media gives you the ability to communicate directly with your target public or market.  In fact these channels let you really drill down on a precise profile of person you want to talk to.

But at the same time many consumers complain of information overload and have developed highly advance filtering capabilities.  They know in a second whether to read an email, interact with a facebook update, tweet, offer and the like… or not.

So to get your business heard over the din it pays to get personal.  The more personalised a message and the more it ties in with what a consumer/customer is interested in, the more you’ll grab their attention.  This doesn’t have to result in highly complex and expensive marketing campaigns.  On the contrary, simplicity is better and less is certainly more when it comes to what you’re saying.  People struggle with campaigns that try to be overly cryptic or dense with messages.  They don’t have the time they once did to fully consider them.  So stick to one simple message at a time rather than push several into one campaign.

Here are some other ideas that may help.

Target small and specific rather than large and generalised groups

Focus your marketing on specific customer profiles rather than broad generic groups.  To identify those profiles, consider the people you are talking to or selling to now.  Who is ideal for your business here?  What are they like?  See these people as individuals to spot how to attract others like them.  Find out what drew them to your business.  What requirement are they trying to fulfil through your business?  What are their interests?  How do they interact with media?  Which marketing channel best reaches them?  What interests them?  Create other campaigns or approaches that draw on this intelligence.

I’ve heard of one business who wanted to get into dialogue with the senior Finance Directors of 4 major brands. They undertook a highly focused advertising campaign on LinkedIn which targeted the exact profile of these individuals, who they knew participated in the social network.  The creative side of the ad campaign was very tailored and whilst the effort was on just 4 individuals, the potential value of those individuals to the business made the campaign very cost-effective.  So do focus your energies on smaller groups where you can personalise your message.  It brings a faster and better return in the long-run.

Images over words

Much of the noise today is written down and as a result people are struggling to read as much as they used to.  The old saying a picture speaks a thousand words is particularly true at the moment.  So in your communications try and use good quality images to get your message across.  Don’t necessarily rely on library stock images – because everyone else is using them too.

Today’s digital cameras mean you can capture decent images without major expense.  We heard of one gardening store who encouraged customers to send in pictures of their gardening successes to the company’s facebook page.   A prize was awarded at the end of each season for the best one and customers started to really engage with the page.  Also, throughout the season the store gave seasonal tips and promoted various related product offers.  Seasonal product sales were soon up like for like compared to the previous year.

Something to interact with

Everybody’s inbox is full so, if you want to send a communication, why not revert to the good old direct mail?  Digital print technology means you can personalise the communication cost-effectively.  What’s more you can build an experience around receiving the communication.  We’re very good at identifying a bill, letter or mailshot from a mere glance of the envelope.  Play this to your advantage.  Be creative and personalise the approach to make the recipient interact with it for longer.  Choose an interesting envelope and make the address look handwritten.  Make what’s inside eye-catching and highly relevant to the recipient.

Tell stories

If you do need to use words to communicate your message then consider telling stories.  These resonate with people more than lists, explanations or sales pitches.  People will remember a story more than a pitch but only if that story interests them.  So pick story topics that will appeal to your target audience.  Show what people have gained by using your products or service.  And, if possible bring these stories to life through video, audio and images rather than the written word.  They will be that much more memorable as a result.

Use your customers’ words

Draw on the positive words and phrases that customers use to describe you.  By using their language you’re more likely to resonate and attract the interest of others.  This will also prevent you using jargon, technical or ‘salesy’ terminology that will only put people off.  So do try and get customers to give you their feedback on what they like about your business and why they use you over other providers.

Humanise your message

The marketing messages we remember usually grab our attention because they’ve touched on a human experience in some way.  A very simple example of this was a small toy shop who ran a great campaign to parents. The Enjoy your kid’s party this year: leave the party bags to us campaign was executed across postcard mailshot, e-shot and social media and worked very well for them.

The good news is that through social media people are more open about what they’re doing.  With social media you can listen out for certain phrases or discussions and get into dialogue.  You can also target certain situations/experiences in people’s profiles with relevant offers and promotions.

Use video

Video is a great tool for getting your message across especially as the technology involved is becoming easier to use and access.  Saying that, there are a lot of really boring videos out there. These usually are built around a ‘ lecture’ format ie one person talking direct to camera.  The best videos offer multiple images and voices that change every few seconds and are set against good piece of music which supports the message.  A good example of this is the video for the tree adventure park, Bewilderwood (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC-T961_nf0 ). It pitches the experience really well both to parents and children alike.

Use humour but be careful

Many of the marketing campaigns we remember have an element of humour in them.  What makes people smile though is usually very personal and is often difficult to translate across different cultures and languages. Any humour that is built around ridicule of a type or person or situation is probably best avoided.  Humour that’s visual usually works better than the language based variety and can work well across different countries. The simplest and funniest humour often arises out of things being put in an unusual context – like the OK Go’s treadmill dancing routines on Youtube.  Watching something we’re used to seeing in one context suddenly put into a different one does grab our attention and usually makes us smile.


It is a noisy world out there but that shouldn’t stop you communicating well with your existing and potential customers.  Cut your way through the clutter surrounding them by personalising your message.  Talk to them about things that are 100% relevant.  You won’t be able to do this for large markets so invest time to understand the profile of the ideal customer for your business and focus your energies on targeted approaches to small groups.  Capture what it is they say they like about you and use this to attract more of the same.  The more relevant you come across to a customer the more loyal they’ll be.



Michelle Daniels,  Managing Director – Extended Thinking
An experienced and effective business development and marketing strategist, Michelle has built a successful career increasing top line growth for service businesses and organisations. She helps her clients turn their marketing, business development and thought leadership plans into reality with her ‘hands on’ support and practical advice.    A prolific writer, Michelle also combines creative flair with business nous to produce highly effective results.  She has written (and ghost-written) for many professional and business publications and is a chartered marketer and member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
Extended Thinking is a hands-on marketing and business development consultancy.  Bringing together great minds and great ‘doers’, we help our clients devise and implement plans that achieve real business growth.  Our clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and sectors, but invariably are those who are too busy or lack the resources to action their marketing and business development plans.  We roll our sleeves up and muck in to free them up to do what they really want to do and are good at doing.